WASHINGTON (AP) — One of the country's oldest civil rights groups says President Barack Obama may have a tougher time winning at least three battleground states in November should black voter turnout fall at least 5 percentage points below the record levels that helped to put him in the White House.

Black voter turnout of 64.7 percent was a significant factor in Obama's victory in 2008, and African Americans are considered solidly behind Obama now. But having achieved the milestone of electing Obama as the nation's first black president, black voters may be less motivated to return to the polls in droves again, the National Urban League said in a report to be released Tuesday.

Assuming no change in 2008 voting patterns, Urban League researchers said, black turnout at about 60 percent or below could cost Obama North Carolina and make it difficult for him to win Ohio and Virginia. In addition to diminished voter enthusiasm, the still-ailing economy, persistent high unemployment among blacks, new state voting laws and limited growth in the African American population could help discourage turnout.

"We achieved a high-water mark in America in 2008. For the first time, African Americans were at the table with white America" because the turnout of black voters was just 1.4 points below white voters, said Chanelle Hardy, senior vice president and executive director of the National Urban League Policy Institute. But, "because we achieved so much in 2008, we have to push even harder to meet those numbers.

"President Obama does not take a single vote or support from any community for granted and he is working to secure the same levels of support based on policies that give everyone a fair shot and the opportunity to succeed," said Clo Ewing of the Obama campaign. She cited the payroll tax, job training, education and health care reform as areas the president has worked hard to improve and noted that all these efforts benefit African Americans.

The campaign for likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney, said he would compete for black votes.

Tara Wall, a spokeswoman for Romney's campaign, said he is committed to competing in the black community, despite the odds. She said Romney acknowledges he won't get a majority of black voters' support, but recognizes Obama can't count on the margins he once enjoyed. "Every percentage point that we chip away from President Obama counts," Wall said.

The reality is that a number of other changes could affect the influence of the black vote, even if it does fall to 2004 levels. Increased turnout of Hispanic voters, who went heavily for Obama in 2008, or drops in turnout of conservative Republicans could conceivably offset a lower black-voter turnout.

The Urban League released its report ahead of the president's July 25 speech scheduled for opening day at its national convention in New Orleans, and a week after Obama's likely Republican rival Mitt Romney was booed at the NAACP's convention in Houston for saying, among other things, that he would repeal Obama's landmark health care law if he is elected.

Marc Morial, National Urban League president, said the African-American vote should not be thought of as static, even if black voters are expected to overwhelmingly cast their ballots for Obama. "We wanted to point out that turnout makes a difference and African American turnout makes a difference," Morial said.

The league said African-American voters had their biggest impact in North Carolina four years ago. An additional 127,000 black North Carolinians who had not voted in 2004 cast ballots in 2008, and Obama won North Carolina by about 14,200 votes. If support for Obama among Africans Americans remains the same but only 60 percent of African American registered voters cast ballots, the National Urban League estimates Obama would lose close to 64,000 votes, more than four times his overall margin of victory in North Carolina.

A similar drop would also make it difficult for Obama to win in Virginia and Ohio too, the league said. The National Urban League did not calculate the effect of a turnout somewhere between the 2004 and 2008 numbers.

African-American voter turnout has been on a steady climb since 1996, when turnout was just 53 percent, down from the 1992 turnout of 59.2 percent.

Such downturns in turnout after record highs have been seen in major cities where African Americans have been elected mayor, said Andra Gillespie, an associate professor of political science at Emory University. Usually turnout drops on the second election. The incumbent is usually re-elected easily but voter participation is smaller, Gillespie said.

Alberta Cameron, 38, of Washington, D.C., said the vote she cast in 2008 for Obama was the first in several years because she really hadn't been interested in voting previously. She said she definitely plans to vote again in 2012.

"It's hard. Anytime you want to go vote for something, you want to be sure you are making the right decision," said Cameron, who works with children in a community center. But after talking about the election a bit more, she said there was no way Romney was getting her vote. "I wouldn't vote for Romney if you paid me. I just wouldn't. It's not a black thing. It's not a white thing. I just don't trust him."

Gillespie said mobilization will be key, adding: "You just can't take anything for granted in this type of race where you've got this level of polarization."
 

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9 thoughts on “Report: Obama Needs Better Than 2008 Black Turnout

  1. africanwarrior on said:

    I see here in the Midwest that Black enthusiasm is lower than in 2008. Obama will have a hard time in November at the current low levels of enthusiasm , only hard core politically aware Blacks seem enthused .

  2. cindycruz on said:

    With such a bad economy and high Latino unemployment …. lots of my family and friends are discouraged and I doubt they will vote this time around.

  3. Geri on said:

    I sure hope that people consider the alternative to Obama as President and then decide what would be worse; not voting and allowing Mitt Romney to win the election because of our apathy.

  4. loycetate on said:

    All supporters of Barack Obama especially the black population should without doubt vote for the president that has done all humanly possible within the “constraints” of his position to do otherwise could get him assassinated, please understand, he is only ONE person and everything he wants to do has only touched the surface. It takes a collective group, republicans and democrats to make it happen. Romney will only take us back to the Bush years, don’t be mislead or misguided. Go to the voting polls and vote as our fore fathers died to allow us the right to vote. OBAMA 2012

  5. loycetate on said:

    All supporters of Barack Obama especially the black population should without doubt vote for the president that has done all humanly possible within the “constraints” of his position to do otherwise could get him assassinated, please understand, he is only ONE person and everything he wants to do has only touched the surface. It takes a collective group, republicans and democrats to make it happen. Romney will only take us back to the Bush years, don’t be mislead or misguided. Go to the voting polls and vote as our fore fathers died to allow us the right to vote. OBAMA 2012

  6. hoodtechiee on said:

    Only baw would ask such an ignorant question, worried about if we will show up? For what, another 4 years of 15% unemployment, 47% black youth unemployment, record deficits, no job prospects, please.Come November I’ll show up to vote an it won’t be for obama believe me. This president has no new ideas on how to get this economy going. Only thing he spews is paying your fair share. He is in over his head, has no real economic experience and has surrounded himself with clowns who are nothing more than yes men/women who are also clueless. Who cares about mitt romney’s taxes, how is that going to help us as a people or this country. You’ve had 4 years, times up, you gotta go, end of story. You have left us in a worst shape than when bush was in office. Go back to Chicago and continue leading communities, this is way too much for you to handle. Let’s get some real problem solvers in the white house and clean up this mess you have left us.

  7. FTSMITH on said:

    Not only will there be a high Black voter turn out, you have decent White voters, that sees what the “Big Chief” is trying to do. I suspect that there will be a high turn out of White women voters for MY President, because Mitt and company, think that they are in the late 1800s, when women didn’t have a right to vote. I hope for our brave troops families high turn out, because President Obama treats our military with respect and will not use them for personal gain.

  8. jimmyg on said:

    Not voting insures that the other candidate misses your one vote.And those single votes add up to hundreds ,then thousands ,of missing in action votes.
    Exactly what any opponent would want.So,folks.We got this thing called Democracy where we vote for leaders the citizens feel have done their best.Then
    Again we fire those who stink…So,folks.millions have paid the ultimate price with
    Their lives for you to have that privilege.So,get up off your butts and go vote.Drive,thumb a ride,walk,run.Just get to them polls and vote….

  9. ron1259 on said:

    I worry more about the new voter regestration law than people not turning out. It was put in place to stop us from voting. If you think the economy will turn around buy getting Obama out you are just kidding yourself. He told everyone from the jump it will be a long hard road. Yes black unemployment is high, but its always been high compared to everybody esle. Understand Romney don’t give a damn about you. When he talks it is not to YOU.

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